January 14, 2013
No. 6 Li Na will face Olga Govortsova in the second round.
Andy Wong/AP

China's Li Na left the Australian Open in tears last year. On Monday, she was all smiles after returning to her winning ways in Melbourne.

Li, the 2011 Australian Open finalist, breezed through her first-round match, beating Sesil Karatantcheva of Kazakhstan 6-1, 6-3 in 78 minutes.

"I mean, yeah, always tough in the first round. You just come to the court 50-50. You never know if you can beat her or you can lose to her," Li said after the match.

"The next round I have to think about on Wednesday, not today," she added with a grin. "So today, just enjoy (being) the winner for the first round."

Li was in a far worse mood last year after she was bounced from the tournament by Kim Clijsters in the fourth round, wasting four match points in the second set tiebreaker. She broke down in tears while being interviewed by the Chinese media during her post-match news conference.

Li was the first Asian player, male or female, to win a Grand Slam when she captured the French Open in 2011. That came only months after she reached the Australian Open final. But she struggled to build on her breakthrough victory, however, and hired Justine Henin's former coach, Carlos Rodriguez, after Wimbledon last year to help her revamp her game.

So far, the new approach seems to be working. Li has a 25-8 win-loss record since Rodriguez joined her, winning titles at Cincinnati last August and at the inaugural Shenzhen Open two weeks ago.

"I was working with him (since) last August, so I was feeling pretty good. I don't know how is he feeling, but looks OK," she joked.

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